The chief of the Border Patrol agents’ labor union told the Congress last month that the Homeland Security Department has been reluctant to send helicopters to aid the Border Patrol on nighttime missions; often leaving agents to face illegal immigrants and possibly armed drug smugglers without critical air support.
Brandon Judd, an agent and the president of the National Border Patrol Council, warned that Trump will struggle to secure the border unless bureaucratic bungling is resolved and the ouster of Obama administration figures who complicated matters, happens. He said that helicopters are just one example of the many issues being faced by the agency.
Mr. Judd told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that when the Border Patrol controlled its own helicopters, its agents had the air support they needed. However, since the inception of the Homeland Security Department more than a decade ago, the helicopters were given over to the Office of Air and Marine, which has been quite hesitant to fly at night.
“Right now the Office of Air and Marine, they fly very little at night,” he told the committee. “In fact, in [the Rio Grande Valley sector], we had to use Coast Guard to fly sorties in certain areas. And when their apprehensions became so great, it’s my understanding the officer at Air and Marine asked them not to fly anymore at night in RGV because it was making them look bad.”
US Customs and Border Protection officials, the agency that heads both the Air and Marine division and the Border Patrol, declined to comment on the matter.
Bureaucratic hurdles and what Mr. Judd called “kingdom-building” could stymie President Trump’s immigration goals, he said.
“We talk about securing the border, and the border — we can absolutely secure it, but it cannot be secure if our operations are not sound,” Mr. Judd said while talking to The Washington Times.
“What’s very concerning to Border Patrol agents is, to this point, we still have the same people who gave us all of the failed operations, who were the authors of the catch-and-release program. They’re still in charge — even under this current administration. That’s head-scratching, especially since the president said we’re going to drain the swamp.”
Chris Cane, head of the union for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, and Mr. Judd, both agree that Trump’s changes to enforcement policies and giving agents a free hand to carry out their duties has definitely helped boost morale. But they are also of the opinion that the both agencies’ leadership needs to be looked into.
Complaints of bureaucratic bungling were understood by both Republicans and Democrats on the homeland security committee, who agree that it is necessary to find areas where they can help the agents to carry out their duty.